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I was born in Frankfurt and my father was an architect there. He had come from a smaller city and "emigrated" to Frankfurt. And in Frankfurt he had a lot of distant family. And among them were the Strausses who were Carola's parents and a number of other family connections. And he set up practice there in the 20's. And in the early thirties, he couldn't work anymore. And he started trying to emigrate.
My mother also came from a smaller town and she had met my father while she was in school and they ran into each other again and they married and lived in Frankfurt, actually in a business section. We lived on the top floor of an office building where he had his studio and our home. The Strausses, Eduard Strauss, who was Carola's father, was very active in what was called the Jüdisches Lehrhaus in Frankfurt, which was closely aligned with Franz Rosenzweig. And they were concerned with Jews not knowing their history and not knowing much about Judaism and becoming more assimilated. And this was a study group to really learn about Judaism and Carola's father was very much involved with that. So she grew up in a very intellectual household. And, well I guess you know her story. She became interested in dance early on, which must've been difficult with her family.
I guess we were family friends and we reunited here in the US when everybody had arrived here. uh, I don't recall early on connection with Carola. I always had scoliosis and my mother was very concerned about it and I think it was through Carola that she found some of the orthopedists that I went to, among them Dr. Jordan and there was another doctor, I think his name was Cobb. I don't remember his first name. And my mother was also always very much concerned that I should be doing exercise. And she had a training in what's called Mensendieck, I don't know if you're familiar with it. So she was very body-conscious and she noticed the scoliosis when I was about three and mentioned it to the pediatrician at the time who, pooh-poohed it. He told her not to worry about it. Anyway, over here in the US, I guess she talked to Carola about it and Carola suggested that I go to Pilates, which I did probably a couple of years. I don't remember how long. And in the early teens, my scoliosis got worse and my mother thought that it might be because of the exercise. So she didn't want me to do it anymore.
I don't know what the time interval was. I don't know when Carola opened her studio, but years later I started going to Carola and doing Pilates with her. And I did that for a number of years. The studio had lots of equipment. It was a small space. I mean, it was an apartment and this was the living room and dining room of the apartment. And the equipment was pretty close together.
Carola was a neat freak. She had an absolute emphasis on cleanliness. It was spotless and she worked hard to keep it that way. You asked about Carola versus Joe Pilates and their methods. I really can't differentiate. I don't remember similarities and differences. I do know that Carola often spoke about some of the teachers who were teaching the method, and felt that they were not as rigorous as she was.
And that they sort of got away from the "core" of the exercise. And I see myself, I mean I go to a gym now, not a Pilates gym, but there is Pilates equipment in the gym and I see the different teachers and I see what they do and I can see which ones are really careful and which are sort of thinking about something else. Well, you asked me about Carola as a person. She was a real mixture between, very serious and intelligent, well read, a widely interested person, and an artistic temperament. And I think she brought all of that into her studio. She always looked immaculate, beautifully put together. As a matter of fact, I always thought that she looked terrific in her leotards and probably better than she did when she was dressed.
I really liked her a lot. And I only really got to know her personally after my parents were no longer there. Prior to that, her relationship was more with my parents than with me. But then we developed a real personal friendship. And I think we liked each other enormously. You're asking how she put herself into her work? I think she was heart and soul involved in it. I mean, it was her life. She worked tremendously hard. She had the studio in her apartment. As a matter of fact, the studio was what had been the living room of the apartment.
I think for a while she might've had a separate apartment. I'm not sure anymore, I remember her in the back room of the studio. And she was totally dedicated to it. As far as her assistants, she was very demanding of them. I think as a result of that there was sometimes conflict.
And my working with them, I remember some of them were better than others, but her method was very rigorous with very careful concentration on how you do the exercise and what muscles you use and how you breathe and all of that. She was very serious about it and demanded it of her assistants as well. You're asking about other clients? I don't remember variations. She worked very much one on one. And so that while I was doing the exercise, I was doing the exercise, I wasn't looking at the exercises anyone else did. Generally, I think people went through the same overall routine.
I remember running into New York City Ballet dancers in the dressing room and I was very impressed to share a dressing room with Gelsey Kirkland and Merril Ashley, and also with somesociety ladies, who I might've met in another context and I suddenly run into them in the dressing room. She had a very broad clientele. You asked about how Carola referred to Joe Pilates and she really credited him with helping her enormously. She had been in a very bad way when she went there and through the exercise and through working with him, it not only helped her physically, but because of that it gave her a life's work. She was enormously grateful to Joe and to what he did for her. She was the first, I guess you know that, she was the first teacher who he encouraged and set up to teach his method.
And she was extremely grateful for that. I know Carola was extremely upset with the "explosion" of Pilates and particularly with the one man, I don't know his name, but she certainly didn't feel that this person had any right to stop other people from using the method or teaching the method. And I think people wanted her to take part in the lawsuit and she really didn't want to do that. I think she felt she would get too upset about it. It was an awful situation. I just couldn't believe that anybody could think that they could, in effect, patent it and force other people to pay him to use it. I mean, it's crazy. I think what Pilates taught me and what still affects me today many, many years later, I don't know whether it was Pilates or Carola, but the method is to think while you're exercising and be conscious of the movement and be conscious of what the various body parts are doing and which muscles are you working.
And that's extremely important. I mean, the idea that Carola herself was able to make a name for herself in this way and to be that important in the history of this field, I think is fabulous.